Books by Wallace Stegner

ON TEACHING AND WRITING FICTION by Wallace Stegner
NONFICTION
Released: Dec. 1, 2002

"You write what you are, asserts Stegner, one of those truths no artist escapes."
Thoughts on writing—his own and a healthy selection from those he admires—from the late Stegner (Marking the Sparrow's Fall, 1998, etc.), who along his protean way started the Stanford Writing Program. Read full book review >
THE UNEASY CHAIR by Wallace Stegner
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: March 28, 2001

Novelist Stegner tends to identify with writers like himself: westerners who try to forge a literary identity far from the East Coast establishment. Like Walter Clark (see above), Bernard DeVoto—novelist, critic, historian, editor—was an outsider both in his native Utah (where he was baptized a Catholic) and in the East, despite his Harvard education. When Stegner's biography first appeared in 1974, Kirkus didn't appreciate how much Stegner personally seems to have invested in his life of a writer we thought unworthy of his superior talents. "A thoroughly agreeable book about a thoroughly disagreeable" man Kirkus put it: "an exhaustive biography of such a minor literary personality." But Stegner's "valentine" to his friend also captures the times in which he thrived—it's a remarkable look at the literary politics of an era, and a man who found himself at its red-hot center. We wondered "why Stegner cares so much," but in retrospect, the answer seems clearer. Read full book review >
NONFICTION
Released: Sept. 1, 1998

A greatest-hits package from the late dean of western American letters. Stegner (1912-1993), already widely respected as a novelist and historian, became a hero of the environmentalist movement with his 1962 "Wilderness Letter," which made a plea to protect public lands in the west. He revisited this theme often while writing magazine pieces with western settings, most of which Stegner himself roundly dismissed as "grocery-buying junk." His son Page Stegner, a historian, has collected representative essays here, a handful of which—mostly travelogues and op-ed pieces—indeed seem to have been written for a quick boost in disposable income. Most of the others are, however, vintage Stegner, written with an eye toward educating the reader in the historical and ecological value of the western landscape. Stegner visits Lake Powell, the 200-mile-long result of damming Glen Canyon on the Colorado River; travels down the backroads of Utah and Saskatchewan; and wanders through western ghost towns. As he does so, he offers lessons from the past and warnings about the future, writing, for instance, "No western states except those on the Pacific Coast can permanently support large populations"—and this at a time before Nevada, Arizona, or Colorado had yet begun their ongoing population explosions. Readers familiar with Stegner's western oeuvre, especially "The Sound of Mountain Water" and his 1987 lecture series, "The American West as Living Space," will find little substantively new here, although Stegner fils has turned up some less celebrated writings that merit reprinting. For readers who are new to Stegner's environmental work, this is as good an introduction as any. Read full book review >
NONFICTION
Released: March 1, 1992

Western Americana and literary history by the Pulitzer-winning novelist. Now 80, Stegner here reviews his life in part, the West as writers have written about it, its landscape and the ever-changing effect of humanity upon it, and so on. Stegner believes that the West is finally coming into its own as a literary entity distinct from what eastern critics have found in it. Even so, he warns, "without a more developed and cohesive society than the West, in its short life and against all the handicaps of revolutionary change and dispersion, has been able to grow—and without a native audience for its native arts—there may come a time in a writer's career when the clutch of the imagination will no longer take hold on the materials that are most one's own." That sentence points up Stegner's strengths and flaws: It digs into his subject of change and fragility both in landscape and citizenry, but does so in a voice more academic than earthy. Ever in search of the loamy detail, one reads through this collection of recent magazine essays and introductions to Stegner's own and others' books and finds less appeal to the senses than the wise overview, rich in itself but not rich in words. The best essay by far is a sigh-heavy memoir of his mother, "Letter, Much Too Late," written some 50 years after her death, with her breath and heartbeat moved into the reader's own chest. Stegner's friendships with writers such as Walter Van Tilburg Clark and Wendell Berry ring with praise, as do his comments on John Steinbeck, Norman Maclean, and George Stewart. And one feels deeply rewarded by Stegner's wisdom about population shifts, the five or six main types of landscape, and his words about conservation, deadly dams, and the death of the desert. Absolutely worthwhile, but highly charged only here and there. Read full book review >
CROSSING TO SAFETY by Wallace Stegner
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: Sept. 21, 1987

Stegner takes a long look back—at four decades of a foursome's life—in a novel that at moments is beguiling, though at others it labors for its theme. Larry Morgan and his wife Sally are young westerners who, one day in Depression-poor 1937, arrive in Madison, Wisconsin, where Larry is to take a one-year teaching post at the University of Wisconsin. Their lives are charmed and transformed when they become friends with Charity and Sid Lang, rich easterners whom the star-struck Morgans take to be the epitome of privilege, grace, and culture. A bosom friendship is formed between the two couples that is to last a lifetime, although that lifetime itself isn't to turn out as ideally as hoped. Success as a writer comes early to Larry Morgan, but his wife Sally is stricken by polio and made permanently a cripple. The elegant Sid Lang, meanwhile, is fired from his post at Madison, with the result that he and Charity (with children) are forced into retreat in the family's Kennedy-esque estate at Battell Pond, Vermont. There they wait out the years of WW II, and there it becomes increasingly clear (in the best sections of the book, which are rich, sure in tone, and reminiscent of, say, the reverberant delicacies of The Good Soldier) that the good Sid is in reality a weak and intellectually hapless man, and that wife Charity is in fact ruthlessly class-driven and relentlessly domineering. The novel ends in 1972, with a macabre reunion of the four friends in Vermont, as Charity orchestrates her own death (of cancer), compelling the others, in their varyingly crippled or exhausted states, to behave in the ways she sees as order-affirming and proper. Widely ambitious, the novel brings vividly to life certain quintessential moments and ideas—the idealistic moment between the Depression and WW II; the poetry-and-backpack rigor of the old New England intelligentsia. But Stegner clings to his theme of undying friendship beyond the point where his material keeps it alive, leading him to an often visibly artificial and conventionalized effort to push things along to their end. In all, less moving as a whole piece than highly remarkable for the fine penetration and achievement of some of its moments. Read full book review >
NONFICTION
Released: April 1, 1982

Sixteen brief, readable, but mostly undistinguished essays on writing, American culture, the Far West, and related topics. Stegner is best at close-up appreciations (he does a fine, knowing study of Ansel Adams), weakest at broad-brush literary or sociological theory (forgettable pieces on "The Writer and the Concept of Adulthood," "Excellence and the Pleasure Principle," etc.). Stegner spends much of his time talking about the West as the archetypal American region, a world he's devoted most of his career to. But the spontaneous affection that enlivens these pages often befuddles Stegner's judgment. "The characteristic American relation with the earth persists most strongly in the West," he tells us, not bothering to explain why the rural West (home of James Watt and his following) persists in savaging an environment that other parts of the country would like to see preserved. Stegner's naive faith in regional identity leads him to argue that "A white banker from Atlanta probably has as much in common with a black Georgia sharecropper as he does with another white banker from Salt Lake City or Seattle." Maybe when Stegner was growing up in Montana and Saskatchewan around 1914-1924, but not now. In his uncritical moments Stegner will wax patriotic ("In the process of taming and naming the continent, we produced an economy that was the envy of the world and a political system that despite its clanking has been the model for individual freedom"), only to snap abruptly out of it ("we have spread like ringworm from sea to sea") and sound like a normal guilty liberal. There are flashes of acumen here and there (on Canadian hostility to the US, for example), but otherwise a lackluster show. Read full book review >
RECAPITULATION by Wallace Stegner
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: Feb. 23, 1978

Bruce Mason, a retired career diplomat, returns to the site of his boyhood, Salt Lake City, to bury an elderly aunt. "He feels the whole disorderly unchronological past hover just beyond the curtain of the present, attaching itself to any scent, sound, touch or random word that will let it back in." Wandering the streets, he hauls back memories of his long-suffering mother and his hated bootlegger father. His sexual frustrations, his friendship with his only true pal, a romance with a Mormon girl, Nola—all borne in upon him in strongly etched waves. Stegner is nothing if not a sturdy guildsman: he makes a book with strong ribs, even if, as here, the meat is rather skimpy. The scenes, though, of Utah natural beauty are evocative and visual; Bruce's coming-to-terms with his dead, detested father also is effective. But more than the memories themselves, which are basically undramatic and recessive, Stegner's cool-handed assurance—and his heightened visibility as a National Book Award winner—will reach out to those earnest readers who are able to derive substantial pleasure from mild, quiet, competent work. Read full book review >
THE SPECTATOR BIRD by Wallace Stegner
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: May 21, 1976

Stegner picks up some years later with Joe and Ruth Allson of All the Little Live Things and paraphrases some of the themes of that book as well as the later Angle of Repose. In particular the irreconcilables between generations (you'll remember the death of their son) and the fact of growing old alone with the worst of life, crabbed by more than arthritis. They live in one of those California "Death Row" Sunshine Cities where Joe feels overcharged if he's offered a half-price Senior Citizen ticket. He's churlishly "killing time" before it gets around to killing him while also losing a tooth here, a friend there. Ruth, and a postcard, return him to the journal he kept during a trip to Denmark after the death of their son when he fell a little in love with the Danish Astrid, ostracized everywhere. This then alternates between the present and the past, the story within a story which will resolve a few painful unknowns for Joe and Ruth, but particularly for Joe—the disappointed father and perhaps the disappointed man. Stegner always tells a very sympathetic tale (this is perhaps not as strong as the above two) which is all too mortally true, equalizing the distance that it travels. It is just these qualities of recognition and participation which create a susceptible readership. Read full book review >
THE LETTERS OF BERNARD DEVOTO by Bernard DeVoto
BIOGRAPHY & MEMOIR
Released: April 11, 1975

Novelist Stegner, who wrote his friend Benny DeVoto's life in The Uneasy Chair, follows up with 148 letters chosen from the many thousands DeVoto dispatched to private people and public figures. Aside from the opening section, called "Self-Scrutiny" by Stegner, the letters generally grapple with ideas (and with not a few idiot correspondents) and are not chosen to expand on the inner life revealed in the biography. They cover Benny's studies of Mark Twain and his dealings with the hopelessly tangled Twain estate, his life as a teacher at Northwestern, Harvard, and Bread Loaf Mountain Writers Conference, his argumentative volleys for over 20 years from "The Easy Chair" column in Harper's, his spats with Sinclair Lewis and Norman Cousins, Van Wyck Brooks, Malcolm Cowley. Also covered are his involvement in the literary life, his work as a historian, his unflagging devotion to conservation of the West and his dedicated support of Adlai Stevenson for President. Stegner tells us DeVoto suffered most of his life from "nervous depressions, migraines, and blind panics" but that whenever he noted these horrors in others he was the first to help. The letters overflow with vitality and reveal him as less of an intemperate jawbeater than a man with a passionate grip on hard facts, capable of change in the face of superior argument. Vehement and lively — for those with some memory of his rambunctious column. Read full book review >
ANGLE OF REPOSE by Wallace Stegner
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: March 19, 1971

A late autumn retrospective, accomplished with a long lens, in which Lyman Ward, retired, ill and wheelchair-bound, attempts to affirm the continuity of the past and the "Doppler effect" of time by reconstructing his grandparents' lives. This in partial contrast to and rebuttal of his son at Berkeley "interested in change but only as a process. . . in values, but only as data" (the schism of his last book, All the Little Live Things). Much as one respects the amplitude of this novel and its sincerity, it all goes on and on (except for occasional present day interruptions) and one is never really very interested in Susan Burling Ward and her deracination from the cultured East to the uncivilized West in the 1870's by her husband, an engineer. It was always for her an "exile" and except for the terminal incidents ( a muted love affair which resulted in the accidental death of a child, her lover's suicide and permanent separation from her husband) there is almost no narrative incentive. The repose, however pleasant, becomes a kind of narcosis. Read full book review >
THE SOUND OF MOUNTAIN WATER by Wallace Stegner
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: May 9, 1969

Two groups of essays dealing with the peculiar vitality and character of the American West, and some literary ruminations having to do with Western writers and writing. Amongst topographical, ecological, lushly affective observations of Western land, Mr. Stegner combines a spirited conservationist bent with an optimistic view of Western destiny: "This is the native home of hope. . . cooperation not rugged individualism, is the quality that characterizes and preserves it." (Certainly a seldom-heard sentiment!) The second series of essays deal with the works of Bret Harte, Willa Cather and Bernard de Voto. From these authors Stegner evolves the endemic themes—the conflicting drives of freedom and security; nostalgia for the past; the plight of the rootless, the strength of the land-centered; the clash of Eastern culture with an expansive West. Stegner pleads for a Western literature that will meaningfully link past and present. Easygoing essays by a writer of venerable and popular reputation. Read full book review >
ALL THE LITTLE LIVE THINGS by Wallace Stegner
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: Aug. 7, 1967

Joe and Ruth Austin, sixtyish, retire, withdraw, in California after their son, an existentialist with whom Joe could never sympathize, dies. On the one hand, on his property, he is confronted with a reproachful reminder of his boy, a bearded graduate student who squats on his property and does a Tar-Zen bit in a treehouse. Nearby the Catlins move in, a young couple, and Joe is particularly susceptible to Marian, frail, loving, and fiercely defensive of "all the little live things" and a belief that there are no evil forces in nature. Even though she is being rapidly destroyed by cancer and her race against death is being run against the birth of a child. All of this then refutes resignation with involvement, equates life in terms of its loss, even though it fails to mediate any of the other problems between the mature citizens and the coffeehouse kooks. "Why does the older generation feel as it does about what is happening in the world today?" (the publishers). Probably for the same reason that that same generation feels as it does about what is happening in the novel today—and this book will be a very compatible compromise, certified by its Literary Guild selection for August. Read full book review >
NONFICTION
Released: June 15, 1964

The American West was settled by many hardy types, pioneers in search of freer land, economic betterment, or adventure; but it was only the Mormons who set out with the promise of eternal life. The Saints who formed the Gathering of Zion in the faith of Joseph Smith and the leadership of Brigham Young began a permanent hegira to the West along the now symbolic Mormon Trail. Forced by Gentile hostilities to leave their site at Nauvoo, Illinois, the migrant flood began in 1845 and the "Twelve Apostles" reached the Great Salt Lake in '47, to be followed over the next twenty years by waves of American and European converts. Soon two-way traffic flowed over the trail—Mormon missionaries returned to the East, passing their Brothers en route to the "New Jerusalem." Written by a non-Mormon, this documented history of the Trail is the story of individual pioneers taken from their letters, journals and reminiscences. Concerned with how the West—not how the Faith—was won, the author manages to reconstruct another historical chapter of the American Frontier story— undistinguished but interesting in its place. Read full book review >
FOUR PORTRAITS AND ONE SUBJECT by Wallace Stegner
NONFICTION
Released: March 5, 1963

In 1960, when the collected papers of Bernard De Voto were made available at Stanford University, four of his friends and admirers spoke at the ceremony and this collective tribute now appears here along with the bibliography of his writings. In this four-panelled profile, this embattled and sometimes intractable individualist is still very much alive- in his iconoclasm, indignation, idealism, his affection and concern for people, his respect for "history from the facts and the facts alone", non-formity which accounted for his swing from radicalism to the right and his desire to against the popular grain". Catherine Drinker Bowen, Edith R. Mirrielees, Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. and Wallace Stegner are the four contributors and all write with great affection for the "western wild man" and appraise his importance as a tough-minded social critic and indigenous historian (rather than novelist). Read full book review >
HISTORY
Released: Oct. 1, 1962

The author of this delightful book, one of America's most distinguished writers, states that it is "A History, a Story, and a Memory of the Last Plains Frontier", and it follows this subtitle exactly. The "History" is that of the country around the Cypress Hills in Saska, the "Story" a fictional tale of cowboys and cattle in the terrible winter of 19067, the "Memory" the author's nostalgic account of his boyhood in the town he names "Whitemud". In 1914 the author's family, following the American dream of a Garden in the West, migrated from town to Whitemud, then barely born, in southern Saskatchewan, and took up a homestead exactly on the Montana-Canadian border, living there and in Whitemud. Five years later, defeated by drought and poverty, they moved on again; years afterward the author returned to find memory in the smell of the Wolf Willow that grew in the Whitemud streams of his boyhood and through it to recapture the past. Life in Whitemud and in the homestead shack was primitive and ugly, but he learned much from it; loneliness and hunger, the joys of treasure-hunting on the town dump, the fact that "anyone, starting from privation, Is spared getting bored". Of Whitemud's history he learned nothing, for although the nearby Cypress Hills had seen every stage of frontier life the town cared nothing for the past, and he knew nothing of fur-traders or Indians seeking sanetuary; he was barely aware of the Mounties, the half-breed metis, the cattle-men ruined in the winter of 1906. This book, one to be read slowly, savored and re-read, will appeal to those with the West in their bones and to searchers for the vanished frontier in its not so-distant reality. Read full book review >
A SHOOTING STAR by Wallace Stegner
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: May 19, 1961

Immensely readable, provocative, challenging, if not always wholly credible- this is Stegner's most mature and rewarding book. From his early novellas- to his short stories- to Big Rock Candy Mountain and Second Growth. Stegner has given evidence of a major talent. A Shooting Star is full justification for those who have watched what has certainly not been a meteoric career. It was worth waiting for. Some will feel that it is a subject- and a handling-that would have been expected from a Rebecca West, perhaps, rather than a Wallace Stegner. For the central figure is a woman, Sabrina Castro, rich, tantalizing rather than beautiful, at the end of her tether in a marriage that holds seemingly no love and little affection. In a slow spiral of disintegration she goes down through various stages of infidelity and dissipation, always battling with her own New England conscience and her agonized need to be wanted and loved. The story is set against the isolation of great wealth in the Peninsula section below San Francisco- and the neighboring suburban developments — and against Sabrina's vacuity of heritage and background is highlighted the content and satisfaction of a childhood friend, serene in her middle-class suburban home. It is a compassionate but never sentimentalized handling, which, perhaps, will touch women's sensibilities rather than men's. Read full book review >
THE CITY OF THE LIVING by Wallace Stegner
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: Oct. 23, 1956

A sheaf of short stories, eight in all, are undercut by the realities of poverty, death, and acceptance of the immutable facts which only experience can teach, a moment of sudden recognition. With the exception of the sardonic Field Guide is the Western Birds, in which a retired literary agent applies his agile powers of observation to his neighbors- collected at a cocktail party- in a curd commentary, the others are more straightforward in their unpleasant truths. A hatred of his father is dimmed by pity- but does not bind him to his cheap life of the poolroom; a welfare worker tries to help a pachuco "alley cat" but knows that even if reclamation is hopeless, the chance must be offered; a man returns a stranger, after 25 years, to his aunt's funeral to watch the undertaker complete her transformation from something "terrible and lost" to something "removed and bearable"; in the title story, a father who has seen the efficacy of drugs which have saved his boy's life in a filthy Egyptian city is given pause when he witnesses an older form of help and healing- a praying native....Stegner makes an efficient- if not outstanding- use of this medium- seldom one to attract the full strength public of the full length book. Read full book review >
NONFICTION
Released: May 9, 1955

An eloquent, practical and convincing plea to abandon the project of constructing the Echo Park Dam on the Utah-Colorado border for hydroelectric power, comes in the form of several articles by people in various occupations, all of whom have the common desire to preserve one of our few remaining wilderness areas for rest and recreation. In his own essay, Wallace Stegner points to the natural wonders of the district. It is full of wonderful scenery; it is a rich archeological site of Indian cultures and of the bones of prehistoric animals- all of which the proposed dam would destroy by gouging out and submerging the land around the Green and Yampa Rivers. Articles by Eliot Blackwelder on geology; by Olaus Murie and Joseph Penfold on animals; by Robert Lister on ancient Indian settlements, and others- give information of general as well as particular interest and are a powerful persuasion to leave the area unimpaired. An extensive photographic supplement shows many of its striking beauties. Read full book review >
BIOGRAPHY & MEMOIR
Released: May 1, 1954

The thrilling record of the first expedition to descend the Green and Colorado Rivers makes a dramatic introduction to the life of John Wesley Powell, but actually his contribution to the opening West, and his permanent part in putting our government into scientific studies of the nation are the major claims to a fame, unjustly obscured. Map makers today still use some of his findings. Geological studies he launched in what would be today considered almost an amateurish approach, laid the groundwork for a wholly scientific development. Ethnology and Indian policies, public land policy and the structure of government science stem back to his trail blazing efforts. Dutton, King, Moran, Holmes, Hillers- these are names that have taken their place, aesthetically as well as scientifically beside him, but that owe much to him. There were those that belittled him and combatted him- Captain Sam Adams loudest mouthed among them. But in the Powell Survey, the Exploration, the Report on the Arid Lands, the reorganization of government in science, Powell has his permanent memorial. Much of what he then projected was ignored, only to be rediscovered almost too late. This is not a personal record but the story of an extraordinary career. An important facet of American growth is here given due consideration. Read full book review >
THE WOMEN ON THE WALL by Wallace Stegner
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: Jan. 1, 1949

Stegner's versatility is already well proven, and this volume of wholly unstandardized short stories is but further evidence. The stories range from realistic anecdotal material with a folk quality to perceptive, sensitive psychological studies of adolescence and childhood. The scenes shift from Vermont to California, from Saskatchewan to Mexico. There's humor and pathos and occasional irony- but there's none of the sordidness, the disillusionment that marks so much of contemporary short story telling. Some may even call his stories old fashioned. I found them hearteningly American, without ever being either corny or sentimental. I'd suggest for sampling, to give you a flavor distinguishing these stories from the average collection, the following:- Beyond the Glass Mountain, the story of two one-time school chums meeting years later, when roles were reversed; Goin' To Town, a study of anticlimax; Two Rivers for contrast in mood; The Colt, a story of a boy's love for a colt- and the tragic aftermath; The Sweetness of the Twisted Apples for the flavor of rural life. Read full book review >
SECOND GROWTH by Wallace Stegner
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: July 15, 1947

Stegner has proved himself adept in the field of the short novel; he has written one important novel, Big Rock Candy Mountain; now comes this book, neither novel nor short stories-but a book about a New Hampshire village that grows into a town during the vacation season when the visitors bring it to life. Stegner has given us the town through sharp, perceptive pieces about some of its residents. There is Helen Barlow, who almost escaped, and when drawn back found she couldn't take it; there is Flo, a lesbian, who has some measure of responsibility for Helen's failure; there is Abe Kaplan, tailor, who lives in a tent and who tries to make Ruth, a Brooklyn girl who found herself on the outside at a "restricted" hotel, find some place for herself as his wife in the village; and there is Andy, trying to live down his family's shady reputation; and then there are minor characters, some drawn by indirection, others in sharp, brief encounter. So well done that it will be enjoyed by an appreciative though not a large audience. Read full book review >
ONE NATION by Wallace Stegner
NONFICTION
Released: Sept. 25, 1945

This is a Life on America prize winner, which may give it one boost over the hurdle that it is "another book about our minority problem". It is more, much more, than just another picture book, though it may reach that picture book market for the quality and human interest in the very fine photographs that have been brought together for the purpose of making this book. The pictures — and the text — are the result of more than a year's survey of the racial and religious stresses in wartime (and, we must acknowledge, in peacetime, too). The approach is astonishingly objective — Stegner, recognizes where the faults lie, and not always on the side of the accused. His plea is not for stereotyped equality, but for equal opportunity. He condemns the violation of such rights. He indicates, without undue emphasis, the economic, social, religious reasons behind discrimination. He shows — in few but dramatic words — a clear relationship — the difference one of degree — to Nazi practices in some things that happen in these United States. He traces the patterns of exclusions — segregation school systems, social and economic discrimination. He indicates signs of hope — of progress. He defines what is meant by the term prejudice — what involved therein. And — through photographs and brief introductory text before each group of pictures — he presents our minorities, — the Pacific races, the Mexicans and Spanish-Americans, the Indians, the Negroes, the Catholics, the Jews. He treads on lots of toes — but — in the brevity of the book — may reach many hearts. Read full book review >
THE BIG ROCK CANDY MOUNTAIN by Wallace Stegner
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: Sept. 24, 1943

This is the most important book Wallace Stegner has done, and he has been marked as "a comer" ever since his memorable novelette, Remembering Laughter. The title of this novel is symbolic (the search for the promise over the mountain — frustrated dreams of power and wealth and happiness); though the mountain itself — yes, with that incredible name — is background for one brief span of happiness. Bo Mason is a flesh and blood individual; you dislike him, you are disturbed by him, you distrust him — but you feel his magnetism, you accept the inevitability of his hold to the last on those nearest to him, — Elsa, his wife, whose every dream was dimmed; Chet, his eldest son, who inherited his father's weaknesses without his strengths; Bruce, the younger boy, sensitive, too easily hurt, resentful and aware of what his father was doing to them all — but pulled back, right to the bitter, sordid end. It is a story that spans frontiers of what is virtually a contemporary picture, — Minnesota, and the Scandinavian section of good, sober farmers; Dakota, still raw frontier at the turn of the century; Saskatchewan, holding out promise of futures unrealized, and Montana, over the border, when prohibition was a provincial condition in Canada — a temptation of quick money to Bo Mason; Utah, which held them longest, though not many months in any one house; Nevada, where gambling was virtually indigenous and Bo briefly "in the money". The period brings the Masons up to the depression — when Bo eventually took the one way out, leaving his sole survivor, Bruce, with a legacy of bitter memories, and a few highlights, and some roots he'd been able to put down for himself despite the arguments of fate. It is not pleasant reading, much of it; but it is real, it is vigorous, it has moments of twisted humor, moments of tenderness, moments of beauty; and it has a holding quality that carries one through its more than 700 pages. It is one of the important novels of the Fall season. Read full book review >
FIRE AND ICE by Wallace Stegner
Released: April 24, 1941

I had hoped that by now Stegner would have grown beyond the vignette type of book, but once again his story does not quite add up to a full-bodied novel. Facile, written with a hard, young style, he succeeds in leaving sharp impressions, without quite rounding out his theme. This is the story of Paul Condon, working his way through a university, a truculent, embittered youth, who tries — and fails — to find a sublimation for his personal grievances in the Party. His grinding rage comes to the surface when the girl who is the symbol of all he wants and hates comes to interview him as a self-help student, for the college paper. He lets loose his venom, attempts rape. Later he is released from jail when charges are not pressed, and comes out a wiser man. Read full book review >
REMEMBERING LAUGHTER by Wallace Stegner
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: Sept. 27, 1937

The $2,500 Prize Novelette, and a memorable award, in discovering a new writer of real merit, and giving impetus to a shorter form of novel writing which has proved its value in such gems as Goodbye, Mr. Chips and Of Mice and Men. There is the tempo and the spirit of Ethan Frome in story and telling; the setting is the corn belt of Iowa. Simply told, the story reveals the tragedy behind the life of two sisters, the husband of the elder, and the youth, who eventually discovers that his "uncle" is in fact his father, and his one link with normal life and "remembered laughter." A tragic story, implicit with far more than the bare outlines reveal. Read full book review >